Still Carping On
Tim decides to relate some past events and develop one connected reflection to another, with Hutchy, perhaps not surprisingly, being a prominent theme
Iwrite for the World Carp Classic magazine each year, usually to bemoan our luck during the previous year’s event. Then Jacko and I went and won it last year, which scuppered the whinging for this year’s feature. As it happens this year organiser Ross Honey’s brief was a wide one: relive last year’s victory, pay tribute to Hutchy, and reflect on the 20 years of the Classic’s life since its inception in 1998. How big is the magazine, for heaven’s sake? All that material requires a book, not an article (or two).
Writers need a peg to hang their hat on, and on reflection I had one. It was Hutchy who first brought the World Carp Classic to our attention, which was a link, and a starting point. I think it was the only match he ever fished, but he had just formed the Dream Team, and was excited by the thought of the event taking place on a big fish water which had been low key for a while. The big attraction was that night-fishing bank space was very limited at Madine (still is) and the Classic gave – and continues to give access to areas that are not normally fishable.
The year after the first WCC in 1998 we filmed Hutchy’s Dream at Madine videos at Madine, which was another link, and threw up a stronger connection than I had envisaged. I mentioned in a feature a while back that many years ago I had caught the scaly mirror which was the second final-night fish of Jacko’s brace which gave us our
ABOVE Rod had just formed the Dream Team prior to the announcement of the first Madine World Carp Classic in 1998
their last respects to the great man. The aftermath was at one of Hutchy’s favourite watering holes, the Splash, where we enthusiastically drank to his memory, and shared Hutchy stories. For those who aren’t aware of it the Splash has early carp connections. Maurice Ingham lived four doors up the leafy lane above the Splash for much of his life, prior to his stroke in the late 80s, and, as an enthusiastic gardener, tended the gardens at the pub for some years. Funeral and aftermath notwithstanding, it is still hard to believe that the familiar, larger-than-life giant of a man that was Rod is no longer with us.
I was going to submit another feature based solely on Hutchy’s writing, but with so much going on, and so many tributes (rightly) being made, I will limit my look-back at his material to one of my all-time favourite extracts. It’s a favourite because it embraces so much of Hutchy’s pioneering beginnings and frustrations at Pinetrees Pool in the 60s, and is simply a marvellous tale which includes Tinker the Wonderdog, after whom Hutchy’s publishing via Wonderdog Publications came about. The extract is taken from the Pinetrees Preoccupation chapter in Carp Along the Way, Volume One. Rod’s frustrations with the elusive Pinetrees’ carp were growing and he decided that using hemp in his carp fishing was possibly the way forward. We take the use of hemp for granted now, but Rod lifted the idea from the barbel fishing on the Royalty, where hemp was eventually banned because of the fish’s preoccupation on it. Would it work for carp? Rod was in the process of finding out for himself at the time of this extract. To put what happens in perspective he hadn’t had a run from the difficult water for nearly two years...
“With darkness rapidly falling I became aware of a strange sensation: I suddenly felt at home in the dark amongst the night creatures. All my senses were acute as though they had been asleep all the years of my life. I could smell the rhododendrons up on the sandy rise. I could taste the winter cabbage in the air that the farmer had been cutting till the last hour of daylight. I could hear the very earth beginning to march as a million tiny creatures went about their nighttime ways. Grasses twitched and reeds rustled as the voles and rats ran the paths they’d trod a thousand times before, and at my side a harmless hairy creature was being affected by the darkness and turning into a werewolf!
There was a sudden commotion behind me, followed by a crash in the reeds as my four-legged companion leapt through the air intent on tasting the blood of a rat. The tranquil atmosphere was shattered, alarming the carp, I feared, and diverting them from their normal feeding routines. I pulled the bedraggled beast of the night from the reeds, giving her a hard whack across the backside and commanding her to lie at my side. For all the good it did I might as well have been talking to myself. During the next hour she chased every rodent, duck, man or UFO within a five-mile radius of the lake. She was completely out of control and I feared that she was ruining all my plans.
Then, for no reason I could explain, as suddenly as she had turned into the vicious hunter she turned back into the docile mutt. Maybe she was just tired from her exertions, or she had decided she had proved her animal powers: either way she just lay there, quiet and seemingly content to be beside her master. The creatures of the lake seemed to sense her new mood and once more embarked upon their night-time journeys, possibly with a new sense of urgency through feeling that her mood could change again. My heart jumped as a carp rolled over the seed-baited area. Maybe I was still in with a chance.
I was tense again, filled with expectancy, willing a fish to pick up the bait. Then it happened, just as I knew it would. The indicator on the mussel-baited rod jumped twice as though it had been flicked by the back of a finger, then sailed majestically towards the butt ring. Out of nowhere, like a hairy Polaris missile, the dog shot through the air, its mind intent on protecting its master from this dancing silver demon, clasping the indicator in her teeth, and biting clean through the line! I heard the line slap the rings as the carp made off, without me attached to it.
I have to be honest and say that I wasn’t very pleased. In fact I was raving mad and, dumb though the dog was, she knew this. If I’d been able to catch her Tinker’s days would have been numbered, but she had the sense to keep clear of me until my mood had calmed. There was no point in carrying on. I wound in the remaining rod to prevent any more disasters, lay back on the deckchair and went to sleep. When I awoke the dog lay at the side of me, looking up at me as though nothing had happened.” End of extract.
After I’d set all that from Rod’s handwritten original I was so gutted for him (at least 30 years after it actually happened!) that I half-hoped it was a bit of an exaggeration. Rod assured me that it was not: that was exactly how it happened!
The elusive Pinetrees carp taught him so much that he was able to carry forward on a national scale, and from which we have all benefited, that it had to be one of the most influential carp waters of all time. He went on to catch a couple of 20lb-plus fish from the water, but they were hard-earned, the result of a few years’ lifetimes of experience, and some hard-learnt lessons.
In early July I was one of the ‘stars’ at a Fish with the Stars event at Richard Stangroom’s Hook Lake in Hertfordshire. Going there was a journey into the unknown, and I set off ridiculously early to cover the 140-plus miles, as is my wont. The directions were specific and assured us that the gate at the top of the lane would be open. It wasn’t. Stan doesn’t do ‘ridiculously early’, especially after a very late night following a concert in London. No problem; I rang him. I think I woke him up. To him it was early: to me it was late, but then being an insomniac most of my days are like that. He gave me the number code to the padlock. I couldn’t get it to work, which came as no surprise to me at all because besides being an insomniac I am a technophobe, too. I rang him back to confess to my inadequacy. He patiently explained that you had to press the pad at the bottom of the lock after you had entered the code. I told him I was familiar with coded padlocks, and had already done so. He checked his message. He’d given me the wrong code. He knew straightaway that he had made a big mistake and that the error of his ways could well find its way into print, although I’ve already told the story to so many people that this confirmation may not come as news to anyone.
I made it to the lake and re-acquainted myself with Chilly, who, in true military style, had been heroically recceing the place through the night since the previous evening. We caught up with lost time and shared a few welcome brews prior to the mid-morning arrivals. The other stars were, apart from Chilly, Laney and Hughesy (I know: how did I get included with that lot!), and the supporters were Stuart Roberts, Rob Healey, Matt Hodgson and Jon Butcher. The invaluable unselfish helpers were Dan Hyne and Piers Clarke, and Stan himself proved an adept hand at manning the barbecue and running off periodically (make that frequently) for fresh supplies of red wine.
It was a lively event, the barbecue gathering
on the Saturday evening proving an awesome social occasion with great food, the odd glass of something or other – depending on your poison – and some very lively banter. I tend to get together with Rob H, Chilly, Laney and Stan once or twice a year, at most, and with the others once or twice a lifetime, so there is catching up and exploring to do in the verbal exchanges during the Saturday evening. I’m a quiet sort, but tend to get a bit talkative when I’m in stimulating company, and have had a drink. The company was stimulating, especially the two Robs, one of whom was christened Rob the Gob during the evening, if it hadn’t already happened – and it’s hard to believe it hadn’t already happened! He was chirpy, but he took the inevitable put-downs in his stride and kept bouncing back for more. (If I don’t specify which Rob I’m referring to they can both think it was the other one.)
I’ve got a lousy memory but my co-angler friend for the weekend, Stuart, assured me that our paths had crossed many years before, although I’ve already forgotten where. Snowberry? I was sure I’d met Rob Healey previously, but he assured me that was not the case: but then when the subject of music came up he commented that he had played in the Society Supergroup at the Circus Tavern in November 2016. That was where I ‘knew’ him from. I’d taken a few shots of him exercising his larynx as lead singer for the Supergroup and recalled his face from the shots. Exercising his larynx appears to have become habit-forming. (Digression: In his lovely book Life Keith Richard goes on about LVS – Lead Vocalist Syndrome – in connection with Jagger’s efforts to go solo. After I’d identified where I’d stumbled across Rob before I felt it explained a lot. He suffers from LVS. (I feel comfortable with these revelations in print because he took all the character assassinations in his stride at the fish-in.)
There were some fish caught, which was a result in the circumstances with the extra rods out, the bankside disturbance, and the frequent comings and goings. Stars Chilly and Laney both caught, Chilly as a result of some very imaginative angling, and Laney as a result of some very longrange fishing. In fact Chilly was so enamoured of the place that he is fishing it through the winter, and has rechristened it Greenmire, because of its size, shape and greenery. Hook Lake is an old estate lake, goes back a long way, and has a bit of a history. When we talked to Bob Davis at the recent Carp Society weekend in August he commented that he and Lenny Middleton had fished the water back in the 70s at a time when you were only able to fish
As he was talking so little sense anyway it didn’t really resonate with me, but after I’d watched Chilly and Laney in action over the weekend I began to think he may have a point
from one (or two) of the banks. I was familiar with the name of the lake from my Snowberry Lake days in the 70s because both waters were run by John Curry’s Fourways Fisheries.
We raised around £1500 on behalf of Marsh Pratley’s Children With Cancer ongoing charity support, and it was a great weekend in lovely surroundings, and in great company. At some point during the exchanges on Saturday night ‘LVS Rob’ commented that he didn’t really look on me as a carp angler. As he was talking so little sense anyway it didn’t really resonate with me, but after I’d watched Chilly and Laney in action over the weekend I began to think he may have a point. I was using irresistible hookbaits over generous introductions of hemp, but they resisted.
Thanks Stan, it was special, as was your hosting, food and wine. Perhaps we’ll get to do it all again some time. I’ve made a note of the correct gate code. The support cast was simply terrific. Good on yer guys.
Chronologically I’m all over the place now because the Carp Society Horseshoe weekend was the week after Hutchy’s funeral and was a similar – if lower key – gathering of familiar faces from back along the way. The idea of a Society Carp Fishing Museum dates back a long way but over the last couple of years it has been driven to fruition by Chairman Derek Stritton, the board of directors, and some very willing supporters, not least in the shape of Len Arbery and Chris Ball who have contributed the Redmire display and made some significant old tackle available. The weekend was a sun-blessed one, as much of this gorgeous summer has been, and the support for this year’s event was an encouraging one. Visitors had the run of the Horseshoe site, there were numerous stands as a focus of attention, refreshments were available from the HQ throughout the day, and well into the night, and the evening’s entertainment was supplied by Len and Chris, with a contribution by Mike Wilson. The visitors made up a ‘Who’s Who?’ of carp fishing’s past, and on reflection I think I missed out on meeting some of my heroes of yesteryear.
A long day culminated in a long night of reminiscing with Pete Springate, Robin Dix, first Chairman Bob Davis, John Perkins’ son Anthony, and a handful of others who came and went as the night progressed. Julie and I look forward to our stays at the New Inn at Lechlade and our visits to Society HQ. We got there two days early so I could start my final checking of the Carp Society book Still For the Love of Carp which is due for publication at the back end of the year, with a Sandown show launch in November. My old mate Fletch, who was my co-conspirator in the launch of the Society and one of the rescue team replacement directors at the successful EGM ousting of the board, had put together the evening’s entertainment, and it was a great success. I never tire of seeing the pictures from the early days of carp fishing, and there were plenty of those on offer in the newly-opened museum and the evening’s talks and slide shows. Len Arbery has had his health problems over the last year or two so it was great to see him looking so well. Marsh Pratley’s health problems have been more widely publicised than Len’s, and it was amazing that Marsh was able to put in an appearance for a few hours on the Saturday. He had been struggling to breathe the last time I saw him, but the pressure on his wind-pipe appears to have eased, and it was only the chemo set-back to his former crowning locks that bore witness to his ongoing battle against cancer. On reflection I could have been more active with my camera, but, sad admission, there was so much going on that I took far fewer shots than I should have done. On the other hand I was delighted to meet Pete Rogers, present with his
friend Tony Meers. Pete’s name has long echoed round the halls of book publishing, as has Tony’s, and it was through his efforts working with Maurice Ingham that the Carp Catchers’ Club letters finally saw the light of day in book form. Pete was instrumental in helping get Maurice’s lovely little Woldale book published, too.
The museum will grow, and become a focus of attention, as will the projected library. If you think you can contribute to either venture then get in touch with Miles or Sabrina (01367 253959) at Carp Society HQ and run your intended contribution past them. Prior notice is important in the case of books as we want one copy of each carp book ever published, and it is necessary to avoid multiple duplications of some titles. I have a number of collectable titles duplicated which I am happy to donate to the library.
The Society’s book is now in the final stages of production, in the capable hands of Mike Starkey. With contributions from such high profile writers and anglers as Shaun Harrison, Ian Chillcott, Iain Macmillan, Brian Skoyles, Oz Holness, Steve Briggs, Julian Cundiff, Chris Ball, Chris Currie, Bill Cottam, Rob Hughes, Mark Walsingham and Simon Crow, to name but a few, the book is going to find its way onto many bookshelves in the months to come. The main theme of the chapters is ‘Heaven and Hell’, which more or less sums up carp fishing as most of us know it. There is some retro material from back issues of Carp Fisher thrown into the mix, so the book is a real kaleidoscope of material reflecting a range of experience and ages in the contributors.
Having read the book three times at the checking and proofing stages I have to say that the chapter by Miranda Brown about the formation of the Ladies’ carp group, and the ensuing ladies’ international matches, proved to be a real revelation. Many great ideas are born when you are sitting doing nothing, or lying in bed trying to get to sleep, and such was the case with Miranda’s brainwave to bring organised ladies’ events to fruition, which she duly did some time back. Kev Clifford has a saying, “If you want something doing ask a busy person” and Miranda is clearly a busy person who got something done. She arranged a ladies’ get together, the ubiquitous Rob Hughes got in touch re filming, and trials and international matches followed. If you want to pursue this avenue further, ladies, get the book. Many women/ladies start out by going along with their husbands or partners without becoming adept in their own right, but clearly some become very accomplished carp anglers. Our Bev Clifford is captain of the ladies’ team, so presumably you can get in touch with events through Carpworld, via Bev, or possibly even via the Carp Society if
things develop as they should.
Pip and Jemima are capable carp anglers, and at one time were enthusiastic with it until family life got in the way. To take a Hutchy connection even further I taught them to carp fish on Little Madine while the Dream at Madine videos were being made on the main lake. Bear in mind that the first three years of the World Carp Classic at Madine involved casting from the bank. Our girls were part of the winning team in 1999, and won the Ladies title in 2000 when they managed one of the few carp caught in the event while fishing (casting) from the back of the small island near HQ. At the latest event reported by Miranda in the book three nations were participating – England, Wales and Holland – with more countries clamouring to get on board and be involved.
There are some great lady/women carp anglers out there, and they bring the added dimension of female pheromones into the reckoning. Farfetched? I’m afraid not. The Dutch pair of Bianca Venema and Lizette Beunders won the World Carp Classic in 2013, and were second in 2015, the year all-american lady carper Larysa Switlyk teamed up with Dutch angler Hans Sissingh to win the title – these references are to the whole event, not a ladies’ title).you see what Jacko and I are up against when we defend our title in September, at around the time that this issue of Carpworld is published?
Lady carpers are nothing new in major international matches, and now the home threat is growing, thanks to the efforts of Miranda Brown, Bev Clifford and their friends. Carp fishing is what you make of it, and we all have different ideas of what constitutes our own versions of the pursuit. Carp matches aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but to me they are an adventure. You go to participate. If you catch anything, it’s a result. If you win it’s a miracle. Win or lose they disrupt your life and beat you up, but the fishing is only part of the occasion. Internationally they are a gathering of like-minded carpers on a global scale, with session
There are some great lady/ women carp anglers out there, and they bring the added dimension of female pheromones into the reckoning. Far-fetched? I’m afraid not
fishing thrown into the equation. Once you are on the bank you are session fishing, no more, no less. Any carp caught are as well cared for as they are in sessions. In the matches we participate in there is no question of bagging up, other than on the St. Lawrence, where it can get a tad hectic at times. You go to Madine hoping to get a draw which gives you some prospect of catching. If it’s a poor draw you go out, bivvy up, live on the bank for five days, pack up and come back. Jacko and I have had our share of that particularly unrewarding routine. That draw-bag moment is one to be dreaded. We gave the job to runner Benji last year, and he came up trumps. It’s asking a lot for fate to be as kind this time around, but all carp fishing is based on hope, which is all you have left when all else has failed. Jacko and I have won five world titles between us, which is more than any carper’s lifetime ration, so to hope for success this time around would be unrealistic. But to not live in hope would be unrealistic, too, so somewhere deep inside there will be a glimmer of hope. Jacko majors in it.
I’ll end with Hutchy. The last words in his first book were “Don’t forget to smell the flowers along the way.” The original quote was by the famous 1920s American golfer Walter Hagen, who lived life to the full, and liked a glass or two. There is a poignancy about the full quote, which appears as the caption, because the entry music at the crematorium service in July was Bobby Mcferrin’s ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’. Rest in peace, Big Fella: the whole world of carp fishing mourns your passing.
We take the use of hemp for granted now, but Rod lifted the idea from the BARBEL FISHING on the Royalty
Tinker the Wonderdog protecting her master from the dancing silver paper!
Rod went on to catch a COUPLE OF 20LB-PLUS fish from the water. This WAS THE FIRST OF THEM
The barbecue and social gathering on the Saturday evening was a lively affair
Stars Chilly and Laney both caught Hook Lake residents...
Rob (nearest camera) played in the Society Supergroup at the Circus Tavern in November 2016
Old school one: Chairman Derek Stritton, Len Arbery, Bally, Kris Ford and Mike Wilson
The setting for the Carp Society Horseshoe weekend in the heatwave conditions of the summer of 2018, looking across the stock pond to the HQ
Our Bev Clifford is captain of the ladies’ team, pictured here with Miranda Brown
The Ladies’ team with manager Rob Hughes and co-manager Miranda Brown at one of the international matches
One of the display cabinets in the newlyopened Carp Society Museum. This will be the start of something big
Old school two: Marsh Pratley on a rare outing, Bally, Fletch, Tony Meers and Pete Rogers
Pip and Jemima were part of the winning team in 1999, and won the Ladies title in 2000
The Dutch pair of Bianca Venema and Lizette Beunders won the World Carp Classic in 2013, and were second in 2015!
Internationally they are a gathering of like-minded carpers on a global scale, with session fishing thrown into the equation
‘You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.’ RIP Big fella